Friday 30 December 2016


Back in action after an illness-induced hiatus over the festive period, but a low-key return as the temperatures on Town Moor failed to lift throughout the day, leaving many trainers unhappy with the ground.

Us non-racing folk can't really understand this sort of thing - but surely the ground is either raceable or it ain't? The spate of non-runners made for rather tepid action.

The opening four-runner novice handicap chase saw Clic Work tower above his rivals in the paddock and the Nicholls youngster, who was plenty forward enough, looked sure to improve on his hurdles form.

His fencing was very impressive indeed, using all his scope to take yards out of his rivals at the obstacles. Softer ground should hold no fears and he's worth following.

Midtech Valentine was the smallest of the quartet and she struggled with these fences on debut.

Hestina stood out in the juvenile, a very strong filly who looked really well. She bombed big time on her hurdles debut and once again looked a very hard ride early on.

It's a testament to her ability that she came there with every chance two out before Giveaway Glance asserted to win with authority. The winner has enough about her to do alright, while Chandos Belle and Graceful Lady were the only others to note. Pipe's horse Work is an athletic sort but this was a step backwards.

Loads of nons in the NH novices left Gustave Mahler as the jolly but he looked slow last time out. That said these were largely embryonic chasers and the winner Just Milly was one of many that looked backward. I wouldn't be expected much from any of these until next term at the earliest.

I was looking forward to taking on Briery Belle at the odds with Kalane in the next, but the former was taken out leaving our heroine an odds on shot.

Kalane is a very smart mare but can throw in the odd howler and J Quinlan did well to sit tight at the final fence first time round. It's almost as if the quicker they go the better she jumps.

She looked beaten as Colla Pier swept past two out but Quinlan hadn't been doing much in front and she really dug in and stayed on very strongly to assert on the run-in. I realy like this mare and she'll stay further on soft ground.

French import Viky Du Reponet looked headstrong in the paddock and she blew out, apparently bleeding. She could prove an expensive mistake.

Ten Sixty interested me up in trip in the next but he's really a chaser in waiting and a dawdle round Town Moor wasn't going to suit with the field reduced to four.

Aspell rode them to sleep on Parish Business but woe if you were on Oh Land Abloom, Coleman allowing the winner to steal a march at the top of the straight. There's no excuse for that although he'd never ridden the horse before and was probably told to come late.

Eight stood their ground in the handicap chase and I very much thought that the outsider Wings Attract was the one to beat with question marks over the rest of the field.

Wings Attract won here at 33/1 last season in a similar race and with blinkers back on another shock looked possible. I didn't like any of the others and it was a cracking bet, which may have paid off had he not been hassled for most of the trip by the loose Valleyofmilan, who unshipped J Cowley at the second.

It still wasn't certain whether La Vaticane would deliver after the last having deceived on several occasions, but she's a strong mare that has plenty of class and that got her through in the end.

The finale was another mare's contest with Miss Mash a warm order considering her win last week came on very different terrain. They had to come here though but she looked a bit on her toes and ran no race. It was hard to split the other four however and wasn't a betting race.

Tuesday 13 December 2016


There didn't look to be much meat on the bone of rather a thin card at The Bridge but it turned into an afternoon full of intrigue on ground that was only just on the soft side of good.

Danceintothelight came home alone in the opening amateur riders' race under a well-judged ride from young Miss McCain, who seems to get on best with the free-running grey. The handicapper won't be impressed but it was clear from some way out that nothing was going to get onvolved.

Cape Hideaway lost touch going out on the second circuit under weak assistance before staying on just at the one pace to finish in the money. However, even he was passed by Chasma under what looked an ill-judged ride by W Easterby.

The mare look fit and in pretty good order, but punters never stood a chance. With softer terrain Chasma can make amends before long, although very little else is of interest as both Kisumu and Donna's Pride ran races that sat perfectly with their disappointing profiles.

The juvenile looked uncompetitive as Nietzsche had useful form going in, and to my eye was fair value at 1.5 on the machine. He was given a bit of a scare by newcomer Project Handbook, who was quite a nice sort in the prelims albeit not straightforward. He looks a likely improver.

The beginners' chase was fabulous affair with Vintage Clouds taking on One Track Mind at the head of the market. Neither was tempting at the odds despite the former looking pretty solid despite failing to win on his previous six outings.

One Track Mind had plenty to prove after his dismal first outing over fences, but that aside he didn't take the eye in the paddock, appearing disinterested and lacking a bit of condition.

He seemed to jump with more composure here, but looked sulky and only ran on at one pace. I'd be interested to take a look at him in the spring when I suspect he could be a different proposition.

Smith ran two and the second string Delusionofgrandeur looked a completely different animal to the one I saw first time out at Haydock less than a month ago. Here he was really tight, and this usually laid back sort just had a bit more about him than usual.

Landing a gamble here last term, the winner was well supported again and he duly made all, jumping much better than at Kelso last time.

Vintage Clouds was one-paced again but he wants truly deep ground to be seen at his best, while once again I did not like the head carriage or the finishing effort of Work In Progress, while Gully's Edge simply jumped round and he too wants it much deeper than this.

I was very keen to get a look at Master Of Irony ahead of a weak novices hurdle as this debutant really took my eye on the level back in the spring of 2015. He's very robust and has loads of scope for hurdling, costing 46k out of the Beckett yard.

He certainly looks to have his quirks as he did on the flat, but he has a touch of class and the somewhat questionable decision to start him over the intermediate trip was proven to be correct as he stayed on really well to mow down Skelton's Ckalco Des Loges.

The latter has a rather immature look about it but he's a national hunt bred 4yro and he deserves the benefit of the doubt at this early stage of his career.

This was half decent form so Good Tradition deserves credit for going with them under a penalty. Further back, Greensworldsolution and Knocknamona need to be kept onside when they go handicapping.

The staying handicap wasn't competitive and yet again Brian Boranha looked the part, particularly as he was giving weight to inferiors. Very few took the eye, although Snapping Turtle looked in good order and had dropped significantly down the weights. He was held up off quite a fast pace and that seemed to suit him, although he was well down when Brian Boranha kicked on in the straight.

The winner again didn't find much off the bridle and he remains one to have reservations about, while third placed Bankhall was up there all the way but he's very one-paced and slow. Hexham or Carlisle may suit better.

Punters these days don't lose out so much as they used to when the clerk of the scales objects to the winner's weight, and when the winner was thrown out after Hughes weighed in 2lb light most firms both on and off course paid out twice. Only Betfair punters lost out on the disqualification - and you know it's your day when your 12/1 poke gets handed the race.

Six went to post for a 2m handicap chase and Discoverie was initially put in a very warm order despite a career high mark to overcome. The in-form chaser was the clear form pick against a veritable rogues gallery that included seven-time runner-up Money For Nothing, now in the hands of T Davidson.

The booking H Skelton was eye-catching and when the beast rocked up ripped to pieces it was clear they meant business, with quite a heavy gamble ensuing in the ring.

But by and large horses run to a pattern and once again Money For Nothing found zilch for pressure after jumping upsides at the last, his attitude costing backers plenty.

Fair play to Discoverie, who has done his trainer proud over the last couple of years, and he appears to have grown up considerably, battling hard for the second time this season. Another rise will make life harder, but another weak race could be found.

Witness ran a similar race to before, the cheekpieces not having much effect, yet again looking for all the world as though he wants an extra half mile.

The bumper had a competitive look, although Boagrius from the Greatrex yard looked the part when the rug came off, really fit and nice mover. He set a pretty strong tempo from the outset and barely gave an inch, so we take this form on merit.

Blue Bullet is a strong sort who went with the winner for much of the way and should be able to find an opening, but the third and fourth home are on the weak side, particularly Temple Man, who was surprisingly unfurnished and requires a lot more time. Harry Hussar again looked like a horse with ability and the run won't be lost on him.

Monday 12 December 2016

Doncaster weekend

As with the last meeting here the ground was good on the hurdles track but looked quite dead for the chasers.


Future Gilded was backed from 4s into 9/4 for the opening handicap chase and he was quite keen in the paddock, fit enough for this first outing in a long time. He was still a bit gassy going into the first and he came down after clipping the top. That was the second first fence casualty in two days for your correspondent after Achill Road Boy departed yesterday.

The race was a bit of a non event thereafter, Foundation Man given an easy time of it in front but although he’s clearly in good heart, it was disappointing nothing was able or willing to test his resolution.

Royal MacNab got a queer ride waited with, he’s looked in need of further this season but was held up going keenly. He’s a one-paced galloper so this was hard fathom – that said he may not be in much form, even though the stable is going well and he looked quite a bit straighter than last time.

K Bailey’s Desaray was a warm order for the maiden hurdle on the back of a solid start under rules last time, but I wasn’t that taken by his quite weak appearance and in any case nothing could match up to the looks of Post War, who was quite possibly the most attractive horse I’ve seen all season.

He seemed to get stuck in the mud a bit last term but this lovely big, long striding animal was sure to appreciate this sounder terrain and with a bit of form in a bumper behind the smart Robin Roe he was well worth a bet despite not really being that strong in the market.

Henderson’s horse took a while to organise himself but the further they went the stronger he looked and the way he closed the deal between the last two was eye-catching. He may not have achieved a great deal but I’ll be following his progress closely.

All eyes were on Wind Place And Sho on his hurdles debut, but this decent flat stayer was too keen in this discipline and didn’t get home. He has enough size to do well, and should build on this, while Benny In Milan stayed on well after a hold-up ride and should be up to winning this term.

There wasn’t a great deal wrong with Might Bite, another off the Henderson conveyor belt, who looks a chaser of real quality. That said, he’s a typical Scorpion in that he may not be straight forward, and he may be one to take on in better company.

Stablemate Premier Bond was weak in the market and he wasn’t able to live with the winner, but he did stay on and although flattered by the margin, this son of Kayf Tara is a fair prospect and will improve markedly under a stamina test.

Winner Massagot appears to have a physical problem, while Cyrius Moriviere came down too early to judge how he would have fared, he still looks unfurnished and may lack a bit of size at this stage.

A decent class 3 handicap hurdle came next and it really looked a match the betting suggested with consistent duo Big Chief Benny and Midnight Jazz heading the market.

Jazz is only small but it’s hard to crab her progress and when Jacob went off in front her odds rightly contracted – and I really wish I’d hung about for some 5/2. I’ve had cause to question many riding tactics of late but they got this spot on.

Jacob’s moderate pace meant Big Chief Benny was just keen enough, and although I’m sure he’s essentially a stayer you can see why they are keeping him to intermediate trips for now. Minstrels Gallery ran to form and looks ready to win on soft ground, while Marquis Of Carabas was backed and he looked very well, again he could be ready to win as this form is rock solid. Even the Hammond inmate Maxie T suggested he is well enough handicapped to collect in the short term.

The handicap chase essentially gathered together a bunch of old dodgepots, owing to race conditions not allowing horses that had won in a while.

They went pretty quick for a staying chase and that suited Dancing Shadow, who was under the pump all the way but has stamina in abundance. Victory looked unlikely for much of the trip as Fort Worth kicked on up the straight.

But Jonjo’s horse has had more chances than you’d care to mention and didn’t find a great deal off the bridle, and the gallop found out the rest of them.

Jac The Legend has proven frustrating and appeared to lose confidence over these bigger fences, and after he was crowded out down the side of the course his jumping went to pot. He’s better than this but a return to timber might help.

Having considered Aliandy to have won first time up despite needing the run I was very keen on his chances in a decent handicap hurdle, but he was done a nose after being held up off a sedate gallop that wouldn’t have suited.

He’s bumped into a horse in Midnight Cowboy who got plenty of experience in novice hurdles last season, and was starting out on a good mark. The way the pair raced clear suggested they will remain ahead of their new marks.

I wasn’t keen on the Catterick form of Italian Riviera, a speedier, buzzy type who ruined his chance by pulling hard, and Thyne For Gold, who did not have to improve to win last week. A much more interesting one for the future is Movie Legend, essentially a stayer having his second outing for the Wadham team.

Again he wouldn’t have been suited by the gallop and he’s a winner waiting to happen granted more of a test.

The closing mares handicap looked wide open as the betting suggested but while there was a lot of recent form to catch the eye of punters, of more interest was the ex-Webber trainer Two Swallows, a well bred animal now in the care of B Pauling.

She had shown decent form two season back and the handicapper had thrown her a lifeline. The clincher was that she looked revved up and ready to go, and in truth she never looked like getting beat, travelling and jumping all over them. 'Props' as they say, to Mr P.


It's always nice to kick off the card with a good thing and Kalane fit the bill on her second start for Amy Murphy. This represented a steep drop in grade after she ran well in listed company at Market Rasen on her comeback.

The only minor concern was whether the drop in trip would force her into errors, especially with tearaway Wells De Lune in opposition, but there were no such fears in the event as she sluiced up, finally proving herself to be of a high calibre.

She's a laid back mare who will obviously stay further, but after a confidence boosting clear round I can see her doing just fine back up in grade. As is often the case it was just a shame we didn't back up the truck.

Always On The Run ran ok in second but he surely now wants to revert to front running tactics over a shorter trip. He looks a nice sort, if a little weak still, but his jumping wasn't great under restraint and he's better than this.

I'll pass on the next as there was little to glean from the paddock other than that Passmore hasn't grown and will need time to get herself together.

The staying chase was a biggie in that Blakemount was fully expected to finally fulfill all that promise from the past couple of years. He looks a great mark on several pieces of form, but he didn't perform once again and now has a big question to answer.

He's not the best looking horse in the world, lacking a bit of size and very robust, so jumping may always be a bit of an issue. All was going well until a couple of errors mid-race seemed to knock his confidence and that was that. To then see him stay on stronger than most was frustrating, suggesting he's either in need of further or is holding something back.

No Duffer and Long Lunch were separated by a nostril and they both looked particularly well beforehand, while I thought Sego Success ran an eye-catching race suggesting he's still on a good mark if set more of a stamina test in deeper ground.

Straidnahanna, weak in the market, still didn't look fit and simply had a spin round for the mark. I've one race and one race only in mind for the big grey and hopefully connections are thinking along the same lines - around a month from now I suspect he'll be ready to go.

The next was a class 2 handicap hurdle and although I thought unlucky loser Cornborough would go well again, this was a much tougher race and a 5lb impost for that last effort looked harsh. All Set To Go was disappointing last time and that prevented a bet on this imposing, sturdy grey. He's looked all quality since I first saw him at Southwell last term, and he just loves coming off a strong pace.

Eyes Of A Tiger stepped up again, staying on well in second, while Hawk High looked really well and I believe he could pop up in a decent race once his trainer hits some form again. He wasn't unduly punished in this race.

Hindsight's a wonderful thing but should there ever be a 1/16 chance in a two runner race over 3m with obstacles? Probably not is surely the correct answer, and hopefully plenty of pros out there played the numbers correctly.

I'm not sure the Saturday punters on Town Moor were necessarily 'doing the math' but even through the haze of alcohol they could see value in 9/1 shot Duel At Dawn, who got cheered home like a St Leger winner after jolly Blue Rambler failed to recover poise after a mid-race howler.

More cheers followed in the next when highly touted O O Seven got turned over in a nice little four-runner novice chase.

Eventual winner Present Man looked in terrific fettle, while I rather liked the chances of Potters Legend, a really progressive chaser who will keep chipping away. I'm not sure why Aspell was so keen to spot the leader many lengths, but that's something I'll never quite understand.

O O Seven is a nice big horse but he's a bit green and he got quite warm beforehand, and I just thought he wasn't at his best. I think he'll be better in time, but time is what he needs and I wouldn't cast too many aspersions at this early stage.

Cliffs Of Dover was one of the biggest certainties I ever saw in the finale. At morning prices we could have done well doubling up Kalane and the ace juvenile hurdler before an avalanche of cash forced his price in to prohibitive odds.

Of course before the meeting started we couldn't have known that the Irish pair Lord Justice and Zig Zag would look so agitated, or that French import Timoteo be so free going that his chance would be impaired.

The way Lord Justice stayed on suggested he could be much better than this considering he was so on edge beforehand. Zig Zag got really wound up, so he too can be marked up, while Bishop Of Bling has the size to do much better in time.

Sunday 11 December 2016



Quite a decent little card and seasonally heavy conditions greeted the runners, while an extremely gusty wind blew across the track making life as hard for punters as it was for participants.

A tidy novices handicap chase was the first port of call and I wasn't keen on Alizee De Janiero, who although has heavy ground form connections always said she's better on good. With no form on undulating tracks and being a bit lean and leggy she was plenty short enough in the betting.

My Little Cracker was also popular but hasn't achieved a great deal in winning twice over timber and she only strikes you as moderate looking at her.

I'd always given Eastview Boy a good write up here and when the money came for him on this first try over fences he became of interest, not withstanding the fact that N Moscrop was on board and that a flat track and better ground may suit best.

Clan Legend, who looked pretty straight, was backed into a short price, and despite a high mark after last season's success made light of conditions to win pretty convincingly, jumping notably well.

Virnon gave vain chase and he went off a massive price suggesting somebody thought he wouldn't be winning, but he's a nice big chaser who can win over fences in similar conditions. It may be that he bumped into one.

The staying chase had a really good shape to it with a few I couldn't have and a favourite in D'Nailor who was opposable on the back of a solitary chase outing, he isn't over-big and breeding suggested the trip may be too far.

I was hugely against Runswick Relax who doesn't seem to be holding condition, he looked quite lean and reportedly bled, and will remain one to oppose. Course specialist Gibbstown looked well but the majority of her form has come in the spring.

It looked like Landmeafortune would go well on this first try at 3m, he's been crying out for a trip as whenever you see Roselier on the distaff side you know there's stamina in abundance.

But he's a bit unfurnished (M Todhunter) and the one who really caught the eye was Smuggler's Stash, who looked well in his coat and perked up by the first time blinds in the prelims. This slow, lazy sort emanated from the in-form Dobbin yard and a repeat of his good run behind I Just Know here last time would be enough. It surely was - but he'll need these extreme tests to be seen to best advantage.

The conditions found out many of the mares in the novice hurdle although daughter of Flemensfirth Lastbutnotleast went through it alright and this strong six year old had too much in her armoury.

Bailey's Champagne To Go didn't look up to much and ran as though attitude is getting in her way, but there were eye-catching performances from Floramoss and Catchamat - the former extremely tenderly handled while the latter is a winner between the flags that wouldn't have had much assistance from the saddle.

I quite liked Sunset Marquis as a specimen, she cost a few quid from Ireland and has ability but her head carriage wasn't great so she has a question to answer. That said, these were tough conditions.

Just Georgie had to be supported in the next over 2m 6f just 11 days on from being brought down at Newcastle, with trip, track and ground all in his favour. Four days later I'm still baffled as to why he stopped at the top of the hill after trading very short. He might have just needed the run still, or maybe he didn't see it out. He's always shaped like a stayer and a bit paceless over shorter, so I'm not sure where this leaves us.

Swing Hard needed the run badly, and The Drinkymeister looked to need the run too, although he was well beaten before fitness became an issue. Verko still looked unfit, but Whiskey Chaser was straight. He was dismal on his return last term, so maybe he can turn it round again. I've always felt he was a nice horse.

The staying hurdle didn't throw up an easy option with course winner Innis Shannon arguably looking value on her return to timber. Master Rajeem has the size of chaser but he's had a new lease of life after moving to the A Hamilton yard and deserved to win it, holding on dourly to beat Flemerina who took an age to get going under a surprisingly laboured effort from her rider.

The finale looked a tricky little handicap chase but in the absence of anything taking the eye I was happy to give Halcyon Days another go after he disappointed at Musselburgh. I thought he was being rushed around that fast track and was hoping he would brush aside doubts about the ground.

He did it really well, just tying up at the end. Spoils Of War finally produced something akin to his much earlier form with a staying on second and he can surely build on this now with a longer trip sure to suit on breeding.

I got to know Clan Chief well enough last seaosn not to fall for his charms again, and he duly clattered a number of fences, while Miss Conway had form tied in with the winner but she's a robust mare who didn't look especially straight and she showed enough before getting weary before the final fence.


Following a pleasant stay in Hexham we headed off down the A69 to Gosforth Park amid torrential rain that ensured the ground rode a good bit softer than the official good to soft that opened proceedings.

Ballycrystal once again looked terrific as he defied a penalty in the opening novice. He's yet to fully strengthen but he's getting loads of experience and he jumped and stayed in the style of a decent operator.

I was disappointed with Our Dancing Paddy at Haydock and he was better here faced with a stamina test, although he wasn't quite right beforehand, getting very warm. He may need time but could make a nice chaser.

The novice chase saw the return of Waiting Patiently just 16 days on from his impressive debut over larger obstacles, and once again he was mustard as he swept aside a very solid benchmark on Forest Bihan.

You can guarantee the latter has run to 140 at least, and with both principles jumping fluently this is excellent northern form. Whether Waiting Patiently can compete with the big boys we can only guess, but Mr Jefferson has another tool to go to war with on this evidence. I haven't seen B Hughes quite so animated in the post race debrief.

A very weak handicap hurdle was taken by Loch Linnhe who had shown snippets of form in bumpers and indeed last time at Hexham. But the opening mark looked stiff and he wasn't easy to find, but he relished the step up in trip and he saw off Hi Bob, who looked quite a bit fitter than at Sedge and he too enjoyed the extra real estate, only bumping into one.

Brackenmoss Rory came in for early support but the cash dried up late on and he was essentially given a jog round at the back, staying on through beaten horses after appearing to semi-plant himself at the start. His mark needs to come down and he's still quite a weak four year old...but his time will come.

Sedgefield winners Maxed Out King and Cabragh took each other on under penalties at an intermediate trip in the next but the market got it right with the heavily backed Smith horse winning well despite an error three out.

Cabragh didn't look like he was over his race over a marathon trip last week, but still ran well enough to suggest he can be competitive off a higher rating. He'll want three miles though. It was a poor race with Money Maid taking second by default - she ran her race and was fit enough to do so, but she looks in the handicapper's grip.

Annie Alainn was a weak jolly in a poor handicap hurdle over 2m but it was hard to put much up against her and she was really up for it, getting a tad warm late on. She bolted up and will have to go under a penalty as she may struggle off a much higher mark - this was really weak stuff.

I liked the handicap chase over the minimum trip as Captain Hox was a warm order despite being a complete hound, a total wet blanket off the bridle. A line went through Zaru from the dreaded Ewart barn while Boss des Mottes showed regressive tendencies last time and he's been on the go for ages now.

With Caraline not ready fitness wise it really only left Groomed and Rosquero as quite decent prices although the big numbers for the former were long gone.

I've quite taken to old Rosquero of late, he's not done an awful lot wrong and has found consistency at a decent level. On this ground the minimum trip is doable and he looked sure to go well, while Groomed was back over fences after a couple of spins over timber when he looked decidedly burly.

The pair duly fought it out, Cook out-riding Bewley from the last to win going away after Rosquero looked to have things sewn up. But you've always got a chance with Cooky and he delivered for his legion of fans again.

The Smith yard has been pretty forward this term and another nice looking bumper horse emerged in the finale by the name of Blottos, with Cook again doing the steering.

This nice horse was backed to the exclusion of much else against the warm favourite in Mayo Star, who didn't have a great deal to beat on this fourth and final start on the flat. I like the horse, he's become big and strong, and he'll do better over obstacles now he's matured - he wasn't so green this time as in the past and he ran into a professional sort last time.

Offshore Oscar came in for support but didn't impress physically, being particularly weak in front, while Arctic Vodka looks a nice prospect but is too tall and weak to be producing the goods on this sort of ground.

Dobbins duo Ruby Who and Heather Burning are fair sorts for the future as is Skywards Reward, a big robust animal who might take a couple of runs to get straight.

Monday 5 December 2016


Just a short trip on Saturday for kind of an okay card if it was midweek, but on a busy day much of the action went under the radar, including the chase debut of a former World Hurdle winner.

The opening novice wasn't much of a contest as the Henderson-trained Baden had much the better form and couldn't seriously be opposed. The grey struggled for some reason though, and while Kafella and Quietly probably stepped up on previous outings, the jolly should have won easier than he did.

I took a very strong opinion in the four-runner novice chase and that was to take on the aforementioned top staying hurdler Cole Harden, who has never appealed as one to reach the same heights over fences.

He's not the biggest, and it's never set in stone that good jumpers of hurdles make good chasers. There was also the trip of just 2m 3f which is way short of his best, and the shorter in the betting he got the bigger the lay he was.

It was clear that in Its'Afreebee we had the best possible opponent to serve it up to the former champ - a strong chase type who had already proven to be a sound jumper, with stamina in the bank but enough basic speed to trouble the jolly.

Giving the favourite 7lb looked a tall order, but on these occasions weight can be irrelevant when you're losing lengths at every fence. Over 18 fences I reckon Cole Harden probably lost around 20 lengths on the winner, if not more.

Connections sounded like they are trying to to kid themselves into thinking he jumped okay. I think the horse could have been fitter, and clearly an extra half mile or so will help. But away from the smaller tracks he'll have to be worth taking on, especially if the ground is worse than it was here.

Minella Charmer was a live runner in this and looked on good terms with himself after being absent since January. Unfortunately he carried that freshness into the race and was probably going to flatten out when he came down three from home.

However, it was a softish fall and although he had been going a bit left he ought to do alright over fences.

Lough Salt was rightly all the rage to repeat his win here three weeks ago but having been reminded at Sedgefield yesterday of the old maxim that 'there's no profit in the obvious' I was happy to sit the race out, with the only other one under consideration Brian Boranha having been backed into a short price.

I've mentioned here a couple of times that BB is a nice looking horse, but has looked a bit iffy off the bridle. He had shown more last time, if ducking left at the business end, and his finishing effort remained a concern.

He had every chance at the last against a couple that have also got their own ideas about the game in Rocklim and Presence Felt. I've no idea why Rocklim didn't go through with his effort, while Brian Boranha seemed to curl up on the run-in.

Presence Felt has only been with J Dixon for a few weeks but the move from Jonjo's has clearly done him good - that said this is not form I'd be that keen on. Lough Salt didn't pick up for whatever reason, he'd looked value for a 10lb hike but maybe that was a tad harsh, or he might want a longer break between runs.

Speaking of breaks between runs, the Smiths can be hard on their horses and this was a third run the space of a month for I Just Know, who is a lovely chaser he really is. But he had a tough race at Market Rasen 16 days previously, and that came less than a fortnight after his chase debut at Hexham.

He loves his jumping but does have a touch of the slows and I thought the front-running market leader might be vulnerable to a potential improver and so it proved as Two Smokin Barrels didn't really have to hit top gear to make a winning debut over fences.

She's not over-big but has loads of scope and she duly made these quite big fences look small, jumping very neatly and efficiently. She was pretty straight and the Scudamore yard is in good form, but this was as good a performance as you would want to see first time up and I can see her doing really well this term - she's rising eight so they'll want to crack on...she might even be a Midlands National-type horse.

We make loads of mistakes and can't get everything right, but at one point the market had the winner only half a point shorter than Mister Don. The Dobbin horse could not possibly win this race - the form of his win last week was as dire as you could imagine, and he was 5lb higher here in a better race. If that didn't point us towards one of the market leaders we're doing something wrong.

The game is quick to bring us back down to earth and while the next looked a straight match between the consistent duo Boite and Sakhee's City (cheekpieces first time) an each-way play on the latter looked as safe as the Bank Of England.

I suppose the latter institution hasn't looked on quite such solid foundations of late but hopefully the early demise of the Kirby inmate isn't a portend for something more serious.

With the boy Dixon making an heroic bid for the double on Circus Star (why the tearaway tactics?) it became a messy affair but I was watching the exchange like a hawk for some value and despite spotting the leaders 10l on the turn Boite never traded above 3 at any stage. There may have been some quality racing on elsewhere but the pros never miss a beat. Sheehan knew what he was doing on the jolly and so did they.

I didn't think El Beau looked very good here and he may be feeling the effects of a long summer on the level - he'd be worth taking on again if they keep him going.

Indian Voyage is popular with northern punters but he's costing them a small fortune this term and I didn't think he deserved to be the same price as the likeable Apterix, who looked in really good order to back up his Sedgefield win.

He's not a natural chaser and these fences are as big as he'd manage, but he really impressed at Sedge and a 7lb hike was fair as he's lazy in front and was worth much more than the official 'won by'.

With Indian Voyage having to make his own gallop it was always going to be set up for the Ellison beast. A mistake at the last probably helped the winner as he loves having one to aim at - Cook knows him well and even the strongest jock in the north didn't resort to the whip to get him home by under a length.

With the Hammond yard on the turn I thought Rathlin might go well as he looked in great order, but he's a bit in and out and probably wants softer and further. Witness hasn't come to himself yet physically and they'll want to get his mark down, but he'll win races round the gaffs. Nautical Twilight looked fit enough to me, but she's really high in the weights.

The junior fillies bumper wasn't much of a betting race - the pair from Warwick looked the best and while Passing Call didn't back up her run, Shearling certainly did and took the penalty in her stride for the in-form Ellison.

Micky's Reine Des Miracles looked a nice type and ran accordingly, but Sweeping Beauty doesn't have a great deal of size and Potters Sapphire was carrying plenty of condition yet surprisingly came in for a bit of support.

Friday 2 December 2016


Well, we bit the bullet and travelled on up to Co Durham for another stab at the lotto that is the Sedgy dog track. The going was changed to good to soft after the first and the tacky ground made for uncompetitive stuff.

The first was a typically ghastly 0-100 handicap hurdle which is hard to say much about - Mr Slack's Hi Bob was all the rage on stable debut but he never really landed a blow on the winner Robben and he may want a bit further.

K Bailey's Thumb Stone Blues went off favourite in a weak novice where chief rival Shanroe In Milan had not gone on physically on his effort here last time, and he looked small and weak compared to these.

It meant the jolly didn't have much to beat, although I did think Dick Darsie might give him more of a fright. The Smith horse needs fences and three miles already.

I'd made a note of Cabragh ahead of the staying chase as the beast had been handicapped in 2m novice hurdles after coming over from Ireland and the shrewd England (nee Drake) yard know the time of day.

He looked a real chase type, if a bit of a handful, but his lack of any recent form and apparent loneliness in the betting was enough to let him run. There was some late money, which was about the time I was tucking into pie and chips.

The other interesting one was Major Ridge, a horse that was often touted around the track but hadn't shown a great deal, not withstanding the occasional snippet of ability. He's a big chase type and on a very attractive mark. I'm not sure he stays, and he looked like the run would do him good, but I'm sure he can do well for his new handler.

The race had a fair shape as What A Game and Darsi Dancer look too small for fences, particularly the former, while the jolly On The Road is only a moderate looking sort and had stamina and jumping to prove. He looked a bit sticky on this chase debut.

Spiculas was all the rage on his return from a couple of years out, and was returning for new trainer M Jefferson. It was good to see the horse looking so enthusiastic but he was overdoing it in the paddock and got a bit warm.

He then overshot the start on the way to post and was very keen in the race, but took it up going to the second last and appeared to have it in the bag.

But he had nothing left for the late climb and Perseid, who was produced fit and well after a break, had stamina in the tank and rallied late to win going away, scuppering a decent punt.

I think Spiculas has run a massive race here all things considered, and suspect after a decent break he can more than atone for this. He looked useful before his injury break and is a 130 horse for sure.

The Smiths were back in the winner's circle after Maxed Out King finally delivered on promise shown seemingly eons ago. This was frustrating as I'd struck him off my 'to follow' list after a lamentable display last time when it appeared to go wrong.

He's what you'd call an old fashioned chase type that you don't see any more, very strong and big boned. As Sue said after he's been crying out for fences and it was another big priced winner on the day that slipped under the wire.

To be honest I though Distant Rain was a good thing after he was ridden too boldly at Towcester last time. This keen going sort should do ok over fences as he jumps ok but he got a no-brains ride behind the winner, repeatedly jumping into the back of him under restraint After a short break, I'd be interested in him again. Frustratingly the rest were of no interest whatsoever.

The hands and heels novice hurdle was a non event as Irish import Justforjames won by a mile after setting off at a searching pace. Only Derrintogher Yank could go with him but he got the arse with it after a while and they came home at wide intervals.

Royal Supremo hadn't grown since last spring but this was lamentable, seemingly never going after early errors, while Priory Lad looked much fitter than previously but couldn't go this pace. I'd be inclined to ignore this and he'll look really well handicapped when his attentions are turned.

The bumper looked a one horse race as Bellamy had been hammered in the betting all day, but he couldn't go with them in the straight and the Ellison trained The Linksman belied an absence to land the spoils, despite looking as though the run would do him good. Top trainer, decent animal.